Georgia Tech EcoCommons

Rendering: Nelson Byrd Woltz

The Challenge

Established in 1885, Georgia Institute of Technology is located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. As a learning institution dedicated to improving the human condition, Georgia Tech wanted to reflect this commitment through their campus design by creating the sustainable university of the 21st century. The Campus Master Plan included the creation of the EcoCommons, a permanent open space system that winds through the Georgia Tech campus. Planners sought to merge the campus’ ecological and human landscapes, which would create a unique performance landscape, providing a valuable environment and educational resource.

The Solution

Barge’s multidisciplinary design team was brought into the project to program, refine, and detail the design of the largest element of the EcoCommons system: the Living Building Sector. This is a nearly seven-acre ecological park which will serve as the anchor of the EcoCommons in the northern quadrant of Georgia Tech’s campus. The park will provide integrated stormwater management, new bio habitats, blackwater reclamation, outdoor recreation, and opportunities for research and education by accomplishing the following:

  • Reducing stormwater runoff by 50%
  • Replacing parking lots with a living landscape
  • Increasing tree canopy coverage
  • Utilizing rainwater for irrigation and other non-potable water needs
  • Promoting biodiversity in an urban environment
  • Enhancing the pedestrian experience
  • Providing access to and from the adjacent buildings and other outdoor areas

The Results

The resulting performance landscape design features temperature and air quality monitoring and includes over 60,000 cubic feet of underground infiltration, vegetated swales, and irrigation connected to cisterns. Through all these efforts combined, it is estimated that the annual stormwater runoff will be reduced by millions of gallons. Planners sought to replicate the original streams and natural runoff pathways present before the building of Georgia Tech’s campus. This reduction in rainwater runoff is helpful even to the City of Atlanta, as the runoff previously drained to a combined sewer system. This site has helped Georgia Tech achieve their desire of creating a living learning laboratory.

Several of Barge’s disciplines were involved in the design of this natural environment in a large urban setting, including landscape architecture, water services, and survey. Barge collaborated with Georgia Tech and other subconsultants to reduce disturbance to normal campus functions while still creating an efficient process which stewarded time and financial resources efficiently.


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